The 8 Ball 7.30.13: Top 8 Unconventional Heroes
Posted by Marc Morrison on 07.30.2013
From Ecco to Earthworm Jim, Super Meat Boy and more, 411's Marc Morrison counts down the Top 8 Unconventional Video Game Heroes!
Welcome again to The 8 Ball where this week we're talking about Unconventional Heroes. I wanted to try and choose just the most oddball, weird heroes that exist in games. I tried to shy away from overt marketing games, "Sneak King" for one, but one of my picks is basically a walking billboard (almost literally) for the product he is peddling. I instead went with either obscure heroes, or heroes/characters that have no place in being the playable character in a video game. Enjoy:
8. Pepsi Man (Pepsi Man)
This is really the only overt advertising hero on my list. There were tons of older games that used ad characters as the hero, notably Cool Spot and the Chester Cheetah games, but I think Pepsiman is the weirdest ad creation, especially transplanted into a video game. The entire game is like a really long chase level from Crash Bandicoot, you run either towards the camera or away from it, avoiding obstacles in the road (holes, logs, other people) and collecting Pepsi cans that are strewn apart. You can slide, jump, or boost a bit, but that's all. The entire game is predicated upon you collecting Pepsi cans and delivering them to someone at the end of the level. It's really a shame it never came to America.
7. The Prince (Katamari Damacy)
The King of Al Cosmos is generally considered the break-out star, but his son, the Prince, is the hero of the game. As him, you roll around the Katamari as it grows larger and larger, sucking up more of the environment into it. Really, the Prince has to have the strength of the Hulk in order to roll around a big ball that grows hundreds, if not thousands of times his size, during some of the levels. The King is an insane, alcoholic child in most of the games, but the Prince is always the one to save his ass, and put the universe back in order.
6. Earthworm Jim (Earthworm Jim)
If you really think about it, the entire premise of Earthworm Jim is crazy. A "super suit" falls to the Earth, and Jim (the titular Earthworm) finds it and takes control of it. You can then later use Jim as an offensive weapon (whipping enemies), or to swing around various hooks in the game. Earthworm Jim came at the height of increasingly off-beat platform heroes, and he might take the cake for that generation's most oddball hero.
5. Waffle Ryebread (Tail Concerto)
Tail Concerto probably is unknown to many people, but was kind of an interesting game. You were Waffle Ryebread, an anthropomorphic dog who was a police officer as you tried to chase down your childhood friend Alicia Press (a cat) and her Black Cat gang. You do this by donning your trusty mech suit, firing capture bubbles at the cats (which can be ricocheted off walls and such) and placing them in the back of the mech suit. Later on you could fire missiles from your mech suit as well, instead of the bubbles. It was kind of like a weird proto-version of The Misadventures of Tron Bonne, only with a lot more talking animals to keep you company.
4. Super Meat Boy/Sack Boy(Super Meat Boy/Little Big Planet 1 and 2)
In the realm of "Boy made of material", I'm not sure which is stranger, Sack Boy or Super Meat Boy. Sack Boy seems like a happy-go-lucky boy made out of a Sack as he goes along his merry way. Super Meat Boy is on his quest to rescue Bandage Girl from the nefarious Dr. Fetus. Boy, when you say it like that, Super Meat Boy is about 10 times as strange. But still, neither character screams to being the traditional hero archetype.
3. Ecco the Dolphin (Ecco the Dolphin)
Ecco is actually a semi-normal character on the surface. He's just a dolphin, so you swim, occasionally can jump out of the water, sing and shoot out echolocation pings out to get a map of the area. But really, making a game where you're a dolphin involved in a quest with aliens and time travel is bonkers, to say the least. Even going back to it now, 20 years later (almost to the day, actually) is kind of an odd thing to see, and you can get a glimpse of how strange the game scene was back then.
2. Tofu (Resident Evil 2)
It's a man-sized walking bar of Tofu that has arms. Really, what more do you want? Tofu is the 4th (fairly hidden) character within Resident Evil 2, largely having the same story as Hunk only being a big bar of Tofu who knifes zombies to death. Yes, Tofu only has one weapon to speak of, the knife, so actually trying to play him is a bit of a challenge. There are a lot of oddball characters coming out of Japan in games, most of the Tekken crew, Hornet (Fighters Megamix), and the like, but Tofu ranks almost near the top for being completely weird.
1: Mister Mosquito (Mister Mosquito)
But Tofu isn't the weirdest and the most unconventional hero to me is Mister Mosquito. Mister Mosquito is a male mosquito on the hunt for blood within the Yamada household. You do this by finding points on their bodies which you can land on to suck blood from. If you go too fast or too slow, they'll notice you and a battle occurs. You have to hit different pressure points on the body in order to calm them down, in order to get back to the main job of sucking blood. It's a game where you control a freaking mosquito! And it works! It's such a bizarre idea for a game, more so than Ecco, because at least people like dolphins. No one likes Mosquitoes.
The Better Half with Liana K
Marc really threw me down the rabbit hole with this week's topic. What IS a conventional video game hero, anyway? In these post-Halo times, Master Chief generally sets the benchmark for "typical", with a whole slew of meathead FPS and TPS characters backing him up. But video games were not always like this, and my list ended up being a tour through video game history. While Chief may be the norm today, this is a relatively new thing. Video games have had their share of successful weird characters that prove you can defy expectations and still sell games... sometimes, anyway.
8: Fat Princess
While more of an objective than a hero in her original game, the unusual nature of Fat Princess caused quite a stir. Yes, it's such a transgression to put an overweight woman in a game without making her digusting, then actually calling attention to the fact that she's, you know, fat, that some people took issue with the entire concept. I see it in a completely different way: It contributes to the number of characters bigger girls can cosplay without risking the ire of the slavering hordes of internet photo galleries. That's not fair, I know, but I don't make the rules.
A movie star bug with sticky feet to climb vertical surfaces, and spit for a weapon. And people wondered why Sega never caught up to Nintendo with its exclusives. Weird.
Journey is intended to invoke a sense of smallness and wonder. I'm not sure if she's intended to invoke comparisons to Jawas. Fortunately, you forget about those similarities fairly quickly while you're playing.
5:The Nameless One
While the Nameless One from Planescape: Torment may look typical on the surface: he's buff, he's scarred, he's grouchy... what makes him wonderfully unconventional is his multiple deaths that are an integral part of the story. There are even certain mazes where you're supposed to die to advance. It was an early awareness of ludo-narrative synergy that worked. Can't wait for the Kickstarter funded "spiritual" sequel!
4:The Raving Rabbids
Although they originally started as Rayman's antagonists, these dancing, belching, singing, toilet plunging bunnies were clearly star material, and Ubisoft knows a cash cow when it sees one. The Rabbids work because of their contradictions: They're a little bit like a cross between Monty Python, South Park, and the Three Stooges... without any intelligible words except "BAAAAAH!" and "DAAAAAAH!" Wait, are those really words?
3: The Prince from Katamari Damacy
The only way to describe this game is "It's Japanese." But even by those standards, Katamari Damacy is a messed up game, seeming to be the source from which the original Adventure Time pilot drew its inspiration. Also, I think the dude goes out for beers with the aforementioned Raving Rabbids. The Prince is the size of his father's gonads, but he still has to put the stars, moon, and constellations back k together after giganto-dad breaks the frikkin' sky. Plus, he needs to suffer through a soundtrack I swear is played in hell. If you need a sense of how messed up this whole game is, just watch the intro:
2: Pac Man/Ms. Pac Man
Pac Man is probably too retro to really factor in to most people's thoughts on unconventional video game characters, but when you consider that he's a yellow disc with an insatiable appetite for fruits and pretzels, and he's perpetually haunted by ghosts that he can eat after popping certain pills, you've got Ghostbusters meets the Matrix, man. Objectively, that's weird. Also, there's a female version of this yellow hungry circle.
The grandfather of modern console gaming isn't exactly typical in today's landscape. He's an overweight plumber with a 70s stache and his main enemies are mushrooms and turtles. Hardly the stuff of dudebro wet dreams. Since his popularity would likely lead him to be missed on a list of unconventional game heroes, he takes the gold star for the number one spot!
I'm sure everyone can think of their own characters, so feel free to jot them in the comments. But here are some of the ones who didn't make my list: James Pond, Cool Spot, Frogger, Glover, Abe, and the Blob (from A Boy and His Blob)
The General Roundup
There were a lot of comments last week about Road Rash, which kind of surprised me. Maybe if there were 2 million more of you guys then EA would make another one. For what it's worth, I did really enjoy Road Rash 3D. Crash Team Racing? Really? Someone said that? It was a clone of Mario Kart, which is fine, but Mario Kart is better. Hence why Crash Team Racing 2 never materialized. I did mention San Francisco Rush 2049, in my "Complainer's Corner" segment. Also, Ridge Racer (and Ridge Racer 2) for the PSP are great racing games, but I found them a bit too easy for my taste.